Sweden Terror Attack Probe Spreads to England

This frame grab taken from Associated Press Television News video and provided by Hector Eguia shows a car burning after an explosion in Stockholm, Sweden, Dec. 11, 2010. AP Photo/APTN

Updated at 8:27 a.m. Eastern.


A man who died in one of two explosions in the Swedish capital had explosives strapped to his body and in his backpack, and had sent threats referring to "jihad" in an e-mail shortly before his death, a prosecutor said Monday.

Tomas Lindstrand said police are "98 percent" certain the suicide bomber was a 28-year-old Swedish citizen, Taimour Abdulwahab, who also lived several years in Britain.

No one died except for the suspect, but the two blasts in Stockholm tore at the fabric of this tolerant and open nation - a society that hadn't seen a terrorist attack in more than three decades.

Two people were wounded in central Stockholm on Saturday in what appeared to be the first suicide bombing in the history of Sweden, which has been spared the major terrorist strikes seen in several other European countries.

A car exploded in the middle of the seasonal shopping frenzy, shooting flames and causing several smaller blasts as people ran screaming from the scene. The blast that killed the alleged bomber came moments later a few blocks away from the car explosion on a busy pedestrian street.

Abdulwahab had explosives strapped to his body and in a backpack, Lindstrand said. He also said he carried "something that looked like a pressure-cooker."

"If it had all exploded at the same time it could have caused very serious damage," Lindstrand said.

Although police haven't confirmed Saturday's attack was motivated by Islamist views, an audio file sent to Swedish news agency TT shortly before the blast referred to jihad, Sweden's military presence in Afghanistan and a cartoon by a Swedish artist that depicted the Prophet Muhammad as a dog, enraging many Muslims.

It hasn't been verified that the speaker is the person who set off the explosive, but police have said they are investigating that possibility.

"Now the Islamic state has been created. We now exist here in Europe and in Sweden. We are a reality," the voice said in the file, submitted to The Associated Press by TT. "I don't want to say more about this. Our actions will speak for themselves."

Police in the U.K. searched a property in Bedfordshire over the weekend after reports that the alleged bomber lived in Luton and studied at the University of Bedfordshire. No arrests had been made and no hazardous materials were found at the property, authorities said.

British media report the suspect, identified as Taimour Abdulwahab al Abdaly, lived at the house in Luton, north of London, with his wife and one or two children.

CBS News partner network Sky News reports that al Abdaly was born in Iraq and moved to Sweden with his family in 1994, then relocated to England in 2001.

According to the BBC, al Abdaly used to attend a local mosque in Luton before being confronted by members several years ago who accused him of "distoring" Islam. No further explanation was given of the incident, and the suspect reportedly never returned to the mosque.

On a Facebook account that appeared to belong to Abdulwahab he posted comments against Shiites, whom Sunni Muslims consider heretics.

He also posted a link to a video showing a dying man, maybe injured in Chechnya, praying to God to die as martyr.

Abdulwahab commented on the video, writing: "Taimour likes Abu Dujana, the death of a shaheed (martyr)."

Sky found a listing for al Abdaly on Muslima, a dating website for Muslims, seeking a second wife.

"I want to get married again, and would like to have a big family. My wife agreed to this," reads the posting on Muslima, adding that al Abdaly hoped one day to move his family to an "Arabic country and settle down there."

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt on Sunday said the attack was "unacceptable" but urged Swedes not to jump to "premature conclusions" that "create tension which paints pictures that are then difficult to change."

"Sweden is an open society ... which has stated a wish that people should be able to have different backgrounds, believe in different in gods ... and live side by side in our open society," Reinfeldt said at a news conference.

Swedes, with a tradition of welcoming immigrants and a culture of transparency, began questioning the veracity of their self-image of being a secure nation after the 1986 murder of Prime Minister Olof Palme. In 2003, the fatal stabbing of Foreign Minister Anna Lindh in an department store was a wake-up call for many.

But there have been no major terrorist strikes.

"We had a terrorist attack in the 1970s from the Rote Armee Fraktion of Germany, but if this is a suicide bomber it is the first time in Sweden," security police spokesman Anders Thornberg told The Associated Press. "It's very serious and it's very tragic that these things have come to Sweden too."

On Sunday, the pedestrian district where the explosions occurred was eerily quiet and empty for a mid-December weekend.

"We're used to seeing things like this on the news. This was a lot closer to home but it still doesn't feel very tangible," said Eric Osterman, a 26-year-old student.

German tourist Melanie Ziethmann, 34, said she heard the bang of the explosion on Saturday but didn't realize what it was until a friend in Germany contacted her to make sure she was OK.

"We were surprised that this happened in Sweden," Ziethmann said. "It was quite shocking. I thought it was very safe here."

In October, Sweden raised its terror threat alert level from low to elevated because of what police called "a shift in activities" among Swedish-based groups that could be plotting attacks.

Days later, police made several arrests over an alleged bomb plot in the country's second-largest city, Goteborg. The suspects were later released and police said the city was no longer deemed to be under threat.

Magnus Norell, a terrorism expert at the Swedish Defense Research Agency, said it was just a matter of time before Sweden was hit by a terror attack.

"Sweden isn't an isolated island, even if we might think that sometimes," he said. "We have only been lucky so far."

Norell said Sweden has the same problem with worsening radicalization among Islamic groups as other countries, with young men traveling to training camps in countries such as Somalia and Pakistan.

"The whole idea is that this is a global war for them and that the target exists everywhere, all over the world," he said.

The 2007 drawing of the Prophet Muhammad by Lars Vilks has raised tensions before in Sweden. In May, Vilks was assaulted while giving a speech in Uppsala, and vandals unsuccessfully tried to burn down his home in southern Sweden.

Tension over immigration also has been growing in this nation of 9.4 million. Sweden attracted more Iraqi refugees following the U.S. toppling of Saddam Hussein than any other country in the West, but calls for restrictions have increased in recent years and in September the far-right Sweden Democrats entered Parliament for the first time, winning 20 of the 349 seats.

On Sunday, about 100 people assembled in chilly central Stockholm for a peaceful demonstration organized by Swedish Muslims for Peace and Justice.

"We felt a responsibility to sharply condemn the attack, but it would be naive to think that yesterday's events aren't going to have a negative effect on the perception of Muslims in Sweden," said Samaa Sarsour, 26, one of the main organizers of the rally. She urged the crowd to punch the air and kick out their feet in a display of defiance against the hijacking of religion by extremists.

Saturday's blast could have been disastrous if the car explosions had set off gas canisters inside the vehicle.

"We were really blessed there. Something must have gone wrong, because it is a fairly normal way of arming a car to get maximum destructive effect," Norell said. Had it succeeded, it could have injured people "in all possible directions," he said.
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